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Martin County residents: CEPP helps, but not nearly enough to stop harmful discharges

Posted: 6:38 PM, Sep 15, 2016
Updated: 2016-09-15 23:38:21-04

Thursday, the U.S. Senate approved its water resources bill. Included in that was the Central Everglades Planning Project. The plan includes a series of projects designed to get more water from Lake Okeechobee flowing south toward the Everglades.

While many say the project is a step in the right direction, it will not have a dramatic impact on the Lake O discharges going east and west.

The Corps releases water from the lake to manage the lake levels, concerned that if the lake gets too high the dike around it could be compromised.

However, many families on the Treasure Coast blame the discharges for causing the toxic algae that invaded their waterways this year.

“It was sad,” said Clayton Adams, a Palm City resident. “It was like someone poured green food coloring into the water.”

That is why some see a glimmer of hope now that the Senate passed its water bill and the CEPP.

“We’re hoping CEPP gets through,” said Mike Conner, a Martin County charter fisherman and activist with Bullsugar.org. “Sure, it’s a little bit of a help.”

Conner puts an emphasis on the word "little."

The project is designed to get more Lake Okeechobee water flowing south, but not nearly enough to stop the discharges going east and west.

There have been more than 615 billions of gallons of Lake O water discharged east and west between November 2015 and early September 2016, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Eventually, CEPP would allow for an additional 65.5 billions of gallons to flow south each year.

If you do the math, the project would only send about 10-11 percent of those discharges toward the Everglades. 

“We need to get storage south of the lake, meaningful storage to stop the discharges,” said Conner. “The goal is to stop the discharges. The St. Lucie River needs not one drop of fresh water from inland.”

CEPP still has to pass in the house. And it still needs funding.

According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, it’s also at least a decade away.